Gabriele the Globetrotter

February 7, 2019

By Mikael Mulugeta

Villarini stands behind a table full of alumni

Villarini at dinner with IIHR alumni (front row: Wei-Hsin Huang, J-C Yang, Gabriele Villarini, HY Lee; back row: Howard H-C Ho, Tim Hau Lee)

IIHR Director Gabriele Villarini recently embarked on a 10-day long trip to Taiwan and China focused on strengthening his ties with IIHR alumni. The trip, which took place in late October, involved traveling to various universities and research institutions to begin talks on future collaborations with IIHR. This came shortly after a September trip to Denver, where he met with IIHR alumni working at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Villarini makes staying in contact with alumni a top priority and sees continued partnerships as beneficial to both parties.

“I view IIHR as a family, and I want to make sure that I develop a personal relationship with our alumni. So, I traveled to Taiwan and China to get to know alumni I only knew by name,” says Villarini. “I wanted to establish a connection with them and update them on the current events and direction of the lab.”

Villarini’s first stop was Taiwan, where he gave a seminar about IIHR and his research to students at National Taiwan University (NTU). After sharing an overview of IIHR’s history and capabilities, Villarini spoke with faculty members about how IIHR could collaborate with NTU and possible joint research programs, including a new National Science Foundation program that allows teams from Taiwan and the United States to submit joint proposals. Talks also revolved around how IIHR could recruit more students and visiting researchers from Taiwan. The Taiwan leg of the trip ended in the city of Taichung, where he met with the director of the Water Resources Planning Institute, gave a seminar to researchers there, toured the facilities, and discussed collaboration opportunities.

Next, Villarini left Taiwan for the Chinese capital of Beijing, where he presented at Beijing Forestry University, Beijing Normal University, and Tsinghua University. He spoke with faculty members and other officials at the schools about forging stronger ties with IIHR, collaborating on joint programs, and potentially bringing students and researchers to IIHR.

Villarini then traveled to the city of Chengdu, where he attended a University of Iowa alumni event organized by Downing Thomas, Dean of International Programs. With former IIHR researcher Jacob Odgaard and others, he discussed how to recruit master’s students in China to study at IIHR and the University of Iowa. Villarini says meeting with Odgaard, who serves as dean of the School of Architecture and Design at Southwest Jiaotong University, and others helped him identify opportunities he might not have been able to find otherwise.

Villarini sitting in front of SHL

“I view IIHR as a family, and I want to make sure that I develop a personal relationship with our alumni,” says Villarini.

Villarini returned to Iowa shortly after, feeling even more confident that similar alumni outreach efforts should be a key focus moving forward.

“My plan is to identify places where our alumni are and travel and meet with them,” says Villarini. “This was the first extended trip I’ve done with this purpose. The next one will likely be to South Korea and Japan.”